The Rwanda Development Board, which inked the deal, has claimed the country’s strategy of multi-million dollar soccer sponsorship deals has paid off as it has already recouped over 100% in marketing benefits from its first year of the sponsorship with Arsenal. It said Rwanda saw a 5% increase in visitors from the UK during that period. Clare Akamanzi, chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board said in a statement the country invests part of its tourism revenues in “strategic collaborations,” like soccer sponsorship deals, based on an expected “positive effect” they have on the Rwanda’s perception globally.

Brazilian superstar Neymar after scoring for Paris St. Germain on Dec. 4.
Brazilian superstar Neymar after scoring for Paris St. Germain on Dec. 4.
Image: REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Rwanda’s kit sponsorship deal is not the first of its kind in Africa. In 2016, Chad—one of the world’s poorest countries—chose to become the jersey sponsor of a French soccer club FC Metz, amid widespread local criticism. And according to Quartz estimates, Africa-focused brands also spend around $40 million annually on marketing deals with clubs in England’s Premier League, the most watched soccer league on the continent.

Long-term, Rwanda’s central goal is boosting its local tourism industry—its largest foreign revenue earner—as it aims to grow revenues to $800 million by 2024, from $438 million in 2017. While the country has positioned itself as a high-end conference and business destination, it also strongly relies on its wildlife attractions, specifically its mountain gorillas—one of the world’s most endangered species.

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